Darkness and Hope
Following her 1985 award winning novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood again dives into the world of Gilead in the sequel, The Testaments. In this new novel, Atwood provides us with a deeper look at some of the characters we began to love, as well as those we began to despise. The Testaments provides us with a look at America, pre-Gilead, and the journey that some of the founders had in creating this society of strict laws, harsh punishment, and explicit sexism. Atwood shows us the cruel and corrupt leadership within Gilead, providing us with a deeper understanding of how such a powerful regime can take over.
The book centres on Aunt Lydia, an “Aunt” in charge of training up women, particularly handmaids, an elite daughter, Agnes, who is destined to be married, and Daisy, a daughter who had been rescued from Gilead and now lives in Canada. Through the development of these characters, we become privy to some of the deepest secrets of Gilead, the secrets that it seems Aunt Lydia alone knows and has power over. The characters give us a broader understanding of how a society can shape an individual and how far one can be pushed before they break. Yet Atwood misses the mark in her attempt to write the moody and rebellious Nicole, who comes across as ditzy, careless, and terribly out of place among the otherwise richly drawn characters.
Despite the glaring darkness of the story, Atwood ensures that hope streams throughout. A hope that God truly is bigger than Gilead and that he can create good and beauty, even in the midst of sin and corruption. Atwood has the chance to show all religion as a negative aspect of society, however she remains above the cynicism. Instead, she accurately reminds us that you can either believe in Gilead, or you can believe in God.